Kenya losing children to diarrhoea

March 31, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 31 – Latest government statistics indicate that close to 100 children die every day from diarrhoeal diseases.

Public Health Assistant Minister Dr James Gesami said on Wednesday that diarrhoea was the third most common cause of ill health and deaths in children aged below five years.

He said the government had now established Oral Rehydration Therapy centres in health facilities to treat diarrhoea.

“Other interventions include the formulation of policy guidelines which ensure that children are saved from diarrhoea deaths. The guidelines build on the achievements and lessons learnt in previous and current diarrhoeal diseases control and management interventions,” the Assistant Minister said.

He said a preliminary report of the 2008 Kenya Demographic Health Survey indicated that every child under five years got an average of three episodes of diarrhoea in one year and that diarrhoea was the second leading cause of death among children under five years globally.

“Nearly one in five child deaths, about 1.5 million each year, are due to diarrhoea. This easily preventable and treatable disease kills more young children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined,” Dr Gesami stated.

He however said knowledge about Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) in mothers with children below five years of age had improved from 71 percent in 2003 to 78 percent in 2008 while percentage of children with diarrhoea who received ORS increased from 51 percent to 78 percent during the same period.

World Health Organisation representative Dr David Okello advised mothers to give ORS at home as first aid before they took a child to a health facility.

“My appeal to the government is that a mother may find many sachets of ORS and may not know whether it is the right one. I think we need to quickly standardise all the ORS sachets available in the outlets so that mothers don’t get confused,” Dr Okello said.

According to UNICEF, diarrhoea could be easily prevented using simple and cost effective interventions such as hand washing, immunisation, Vitamin A, exclusive breastfeeding for six months and using clean, safe water.

Dr Sanjiv Kumar, Chief, Child Survival and Development said scaling up simple package of interventions that include using new ORS containing lower concentrations of glucose and salt and using Zinc supplementation could prevent the deaths.

Meanwhile, the government confirmed that it had received 700,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine from the World Health Organisation to be administered to vulnerable populations beginning early April.

The Director of Public Health Dr Shahnaaz Sharif said the vaccine would be available to health workers, people with chronic diseases like TB, diabetes and others that make them susceptible to the disease, pregnant women.

“H1N1 is still a threat because what has happened right now is from our data from the surveillance sites is that H1N1 has replaced the seasonal flu. So what we are getting now is that 70 percent of influenza is H1N1 so it has replaced the seasonal influenza virus,” Dr Shariff said.

He said the government stopped counting the cases when it got to 600.

The World Health Organisation is set to begin a review process to appraise the preparedness and the response to the current H1N1 influenza pandemic and also review the functioning of the International Health Regulations (IHR), both in relationship to the pandemic and other functions not related to the pandemic.

Speaking in Geneva on Monday, the Special Adviser to the Director-General on Pandemic Influenza, Dr Keiji Fukuda said the process hopes to identify lessons learnt, what the world needs to do including countries and organizations like WHO to be better prepared and also to respond to future pandemics and future large scale global public health events.


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